Being a dog owner isn’t easy, it’s really hard work and a considerable commitment, but the payback is huge
I HELD OUT AS LONG AS I COULD. But it was pointless. I was weak. Their will was strong. Against all the empty I-swear-I’ll-walk-him promises and my protestations about dog hair and dog smells, after more than ten years of constant pestering, I just gave in. It was more than a weak moment. Anyway, I secretly thought it would be good for my kids to have to care for something beyond themselves.
Running alongside the making of the decision to actually own a dog was what flavour of dog it might be. As a family we went through all the varieties a million times and changed our minds a million more. There was a lot to consider, like how often he’d be left on his own, the amount of walking he’d need, how loyal he’d be as a pet and whether or not he’d always be looking to escape.
We each had our own preferences – a pug was the strongest contender despite my gripe that I couldn’t love an ugly dog, until, eventually, we settled on a Golden Retriever.
So Milo arrived like a cuddly cloud of cuteness and fluff to change our lives.
Initially I thought we were blessed. Having heard all the horror stories about pups that eat chair legs and skirting boards, the relief when he didn’t display a taste for either was palpable. All he did was pee. Everywhere. All the time. For the best part of six months he treated every carpet as his very own private toilet. He didn’t care if it was deep-pile, synthetic, wool, cream in colour or that the house was fast beginning to smell like a kennel.
For six months I wished his adorability away, praying for bladder control to kick in. But with maturity – of sorts – came hair loss and nerve. By the time he was one year old he had produced sufficient hair to weave enough wool for at least three adult-sized jumpers twice over. On top of that he developed an unusual appetite for glasses. So far he’s consumed three pairs.
The second and third pairs weren’t so bad, the first was the worst. They weren’t a cheap over-the-counter kind, they were the bells-and-whistles kind. An over-€400 kind that makes you cry when all that remains is one mangled arm peering out from under the covers of his bed.
His cheeky appetite for shoes, meanwhile, is not so unusual, so I’m told. Apparently it’s a dog thing. It appears that the one sure way to guarantee the need for a new pair of runners, even after Mum says no, is to accidentally leave them within chomping distance of Milo. He is indiscriminate in his taste for footwear and has consumed at this stage a full measure of sizes and styles, from flat walkers to leg-wobbling platforms.
In the beginning the walking duties were equally shared between the older kids. It was all going so well that I started to feel guilty about my negative premonitions of being left holding the lead but sadly it was the novelty that caved in first. And once that was gone, well it has become the chore that no one wants to do. So unless I pay someone to do it, it’s mostly me. And that’s why, I tell my kids, Milo loves me best of all!
They vehemently disagree of course but I say it makes perfect sense. I feed him, I walk him, I even let him sleep on my bed. Well, that’s not strictly true. I don’t actually let him, he kind of sneaks up on it. He’s a smart dog is Milo. He waits until I’m asleep, then jumps on the bottom of the bed, careful not to touch my legs, otherwise he’s a goner, and snuggles down for the night or until I wake up and find him there, and hoosh him away.
Despite all the down sides, the pee and the poo, the missing shoes and glasses, the late night walks because no one else has bothered, the layer of dog hair that covers everything and his disgusting attraction to fox poo – you’d think he’d learn – I think in our house we’re all in agreement that Milo is undoubtedly best thing that has happened to our family in a long, long time. He’s a best friend to each of us.
His affection is undeniable, unconditional and infinite. And for all his eyeraising behaviour he doesn’t hesitate to rest his head on your lap, look up with those dark puppy eyes angling for a pet, or lie on his back in the hope of a tummy rub. He knows which one of us likes to play and which one prefers to cuddle. He’s the excuse we need to get out of the house. He’s the safety net for the kids who storm out in a huff. And sometimes when things get too much he’s the medicine that helps take the pain away.
Being a dog owner isn’t easy, it’s really hard work and a considerable commitment, but the payback is huge. I often get asked if I’d recommend it and in response I say, make sure you have the time and the energy to give.
And mind your glasses...